How long do periods last? We know it feels like infinity and beyond, but we’ve got the answers and the advice you need to hear.
The question of how long do periods last can be answered in two ways:
- How long does a period last in one cycle?
- How long do periods last over your lifetime?
We’re going to look at both of those in detail — but they do share a common basic answer:
Everyone (and every cycle) is different.
If that sentence makes you want to scream with frustration, we’re with you.
A direct answer would be nice, right?!
So let’s break it down so we can get as close to one as possible.
Before we get into how long a period lasts, let’s recap how our menstrual cycles work.
In this article: 📝
- The phases of a menstrual cycle
- How many days does a normal period last?
- How do you track your period?
- What could cause irregular periods?
- Can you control your period?
- How long is your period supposed to last?
- So how long do periods last?
The phases of a menstrual cycle
Your period marks the beginning of your menstrual cycle.
Every month your body prepares for a possible pregnancy.
First off, there’s the follicular phase, which starts on day one of your bleed and continues till you ovulate.
During this phase, your ovaries produce follicles that hold your eggs.
At the same time, the lining of the uterus begins thickening in preparation for possible embryo implantation.
The next stage is ovulation.
Here, a mature egg is released into the fallopian tube.
This usually occurs midway through your cycle.
Then there’s the luteal phase.
The hormone progesterone increases, and things are primed for the implantation of a fertilized egg.
If an egg is not fertilized, a new cycle starts again with menstruation.
The endometrium (the thickened uterine lining) sheds through the vagina, and you have a period.
How many days does a normal period last?
Experts agree somewhere between 2 and 7 days — quite a variation, right?!
Basically, normal is a very relative term.
So ask not, how long does a period last?
Instead, ask how long does your period last?
It may help to start making notes about your period.
That way, you can figure out what’s normal for you.
There are a great many apps available to do this for you, but a good old pen and paper does the trick as well.
How do you track your period?
Start by noting down the first day of bleeding.
This is day one of your cycle.
Note how many days you bleed and how heavy your flow is.
It may also help to document how you feel on those days.
Then note when your period ends.
There are all sorts of things to note, like changes in cervical mucus and temperature.
These will help you track your most fertile days.
If you’re not trying to conceive, tracking your period can help you gain more knowledge about your body.
Note when or if your breasts feel tender and if any headache symptoms or strange cravings emerge.
All these things can help you prepare for your period.
When the cycle begins, start again with day one.
The days in between are your cycle length.
Remember a normal (here comes that word again) period is anywhere between 21 and 35 days.
By tracking three cycles or more, you can see what patterns emerge.
That’ll help you discover what normal is for you and give you a sense of if something feels out of the ordinary.
What could cause irregular periods?
It’s common for periods to be irregular in the very beginning when puberty hits.
As time goes on and your body gets into a rhythm, things tend to become more regular.
Around 14 to 28% of folks experience what doctors term menstrual irregularities.
They can be caused by a number of things including:
- Disordered eating
- Major weight change
- Extreme exercise
- Early ovarian decrease
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Uterine fibroids
It’s a good idea to get medical advice if you:
- Haven’t had a period for 90 days and you’re not pregnant.
- Bleed for more than seven days.
- Have unusually heavy bleeding that soaks through more than one pad or tampon every hour or two.
Severe pain during your period is also not usual and should be assessed by a medical practitioner.
And if there are any major changes in your cycle (this is why tracking is so helpful), it’s a good precautionary idea to get checked out too.
Also, if you start to feel ill or experience a fever after using tampons, see a doctor immediately.
It could be Toxic Shock Syndrome, a rare but serious condition associated with tampon use.
Is a 2-day period normal?
It’s probably something to check in with your doctor about.
There are a few reasons your period could be this quick, including changes in your birth control method and stress.
(Yep, the stress hormone cortisol can certainly affect our menstrual cycles.)
A two-day period, especially if light, could also be implantation bleeding, which might mean you are pregnant.
Is a 10-day period normal?
A ten-day period is unusual and warrants a chat with your doctor.
As we get older we can expect period irregularities to pop up again.
During perimenopause, which usually begins in your 40s, hormones start to shift again.
So it might be 100% normal for where you are.
But it’s still best to get professional advice.
Can you control your period?
Kind of, yes.
If you struggle with heavy or painful periods, there are options to even things out.
Birth control can help you do this.
Some types can stop you from menstruating altogether.
Others, like the pill, can give you a choice of whether you want to bleed every month or not.
For example, if you are going on a four-day hike and would prefer not to have to deal with sanitary ware on your trip, you may want to keep your period away for a month.
But this is definitely a conversation to have with your doctor first.
How long is your period supposed to last?
We’ve chatted about the month-to-month issues around periods, but what about over a lifetime?
Between the end of your 30s and your 40s, fertility begins to ease as your ovaries start to make less estrogen and your ovary reserves decrease.
This chapter is called perimenopause, the name given to the time before menopause.
If you’re trying for a baby, this can be an incredibly emotional time.
And finding support from healthcare professionals, friends, family, and your Peanut community is really important.
You don’t have to do this alone.
And if you’re not trying to have a baby, it’s important to remember that while your periods may be irregular during perimenopause, you are still ovulating.
That means you may still be able to fall pregnant.
So don’t forget to plan around that😉.
After a full year of no periods, you reach menopause.
So how long do periods last?
In the US, the average age people stop menstruating is around 51.
And considering the average age to start your period is twelve years old, your periods last for an average of 39 years.
We know — we’ve had a lot of averages, normals, oftens, usuallys, and even the odd generally.
We also wish there were more firm answers that applied to everyone.
But the best thing you can do is work out what’s normal for you.
Tracking and noting your period is a great way to do this.
And you’ll have plenty of time to do this, considering you have about seven full years of your life on your period. Phew.
And while there may not be a normal that applies to everyone, we can definitely support each other through our own versions of it.
Join us on Peanut. We’re having the conversation.
🩸 More from The 411:
Can You Get Pregnant Right Before Your Period?
Can You Get Pregnant Right After Your Period?
Can You Have Two Periods in One Month?
How Late Can a Period Be?
What to Know About Black Period Blood
Having Sex on Your Period: What to Know
Watery Period Blood: A Sign of Pregnancy?
Do You Burn More Calories on Your Period? The Facts
What Does Brown Discharge Before My Period Mean?
8 Signs Your Period is Coming Tomorrow
Why Am I So Hungry On My Period?
Why Did My Period Come Early? 10 Reasons